The automaker wants put to this fuel-cell crossover concept into production.
BMW's i division has its own model line, currently consisting of the i3 hatchback and i8 sports car. But it also does alternative-fuel versions of conventional Bimmers, like the 530e and 745e iPerformance plug-in hybrids. And now it's showing its vision for another.
On display at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show is this conceptual fuel-cell vehicle. Called the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, it's based on the existing X5 crossover, but powered by hydrogen – sort of like the infamous Hindenburg airship, but hopefully safer, because the Bavarian automaker wants to put it into production.
BMW hasn't revealed any technical details, but it's been collaborating since 2013 with Toyota (which produces the Mirai fuel-cell vehicle) on the development of hydrogen propulsion.
The concept you see here looks mostly like a standard X5 too, save for a few cosmetic changes. Where the tailpipes would be, BMW has fitted blue diffuser elements. It also wears a unique paintjob with blue accents and graphics over a white body, a similar pattern over the air intakes, and blue-accented alloys, all taking their cues from the i brand's signature color.
The manufacturer says it intends to roll out a small fleet of hydrogen X5s like this one in 2022, and could start selling them on a wider scale "in 2025 at the earliest." There's just one sticking point, and that's the availability of hydrogen infrastructure – something that's lacking in all but a few parts of the world, like the vital market that is California, BMW's own home market of Germany, and Toyota's in Japan.
Laying that groundwork in other parts of the world is a big task, and until it's more widespread, BMW and other automakers may stay largely out of the game. But it's evidently keeping an eye out.